Are statins truly necessary? I think that very much depends on the circumstances.
A while back I wrote about Pete’s cholesterol level. His total cholesterol was at the vertigo-inducing height of 9.2.
The doctor prescribed statins and sent him away. Just like that, without any further tests or knowing Peter’s backstory, he prescribed a drug which he fully expected Peter to be on for the rest of his life.
We did all the right things as outlined in this post and four weeks later his cholesterol was down to 8.8. Still high but less ‘wobbly-legged’ so.
Another 4 weeks on and Peter has the results of a further test. This time his cholesterol was at 8.3. His LDL’s have gone down, his HDL’s up and his triglycerides are the same. That means his HDL/Triglyceride ratio is .25 which is more than ideal. AWESOME RESULT!
High fives all round.
The doctor, however (who doesn’t yet know that Peter is not taking the statins he prescribed) was not in a high five mood and directed Peter to double his dose. His cholesterol is not coming down fast enough!
My father in New Zealand, read my post on Peter’s tests and concerned for him sent me an article from the Listener outlining the side effects and questioning the wide use of statins especially in those with low risk.
It only served to cement my opinion of this controversial family of drugs. A direct quote from the article:
“However, statins come with potential side effects that can include muscle weakness, memory loss and an increased chance of diabetes”
So here is how I see the Doctor’s thought process:
High cholesterol >> high risk of cardiovascular disease >> prescribe statins >> lower cholesterol >> good job well done.
This is our thought pattern:
High cholesterol >> change diet >> get more tests to see the bigger picture >> make decision.
There is currently hot debate as to whether cholesterol is even the real villain in this story. Search for cholesterol on Marks Daily Apple. His posts there are an interesting read and will tell you most of what you need to know with regards to cholesterol.
Now our next step is to either:
have a CRT scan which will show any plaque build-up in Pete’s arteries. If not (and I suspect very strongly that is the case) we can wait another five years before testing again or,
have an advanced blood test as seen here – This will give a much more in-depth profile of Pete’s cholesterol.
If you are prepared to put the work in to get your cholesterol down to a safe level and you have a good idea of the bigger picture then why take statins?
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An update: Peter’s cholesterol is now just above 6 and that is where it seems to sit. He has blood tests regularly so that we can monitor it and sees a blood specialist who is happy about his HDL and LDL levels. It wasn’t hard work. We cut out most saturated fats, added in lots of monounsaturated fats and plenty of probiotics, prebiotics and fibre.